Lunch Date

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Original Fiction

Photo Drabble

by avenger-nerd-mom

Word Count: 897

Tapping on the door gently it falls open unexpectedly.  With the laundry basket balanced on her hip, she hesitantly steps into the room, afraid of what she might find.  As the scent of cologne and stale gym shoes sting her nose, the dog lazily lifts his head.  With a wide yawn, he plops back down on his large graying paws.

Her eyes quickly scan over his body, the scar on his calf from a treehouse fall when he was eight and the birthmark on the side of his thigh.  She smiles at the elastic waistband of his favorite “star wars” boxers, shaking her head.  Still like a little kid…  The muscles across his back are broad and strong, already showing signs of a light summer tan from mowing the lawn.

He may look like a man, but he will always be her little boy.

Placing the clothes from the basket on top of the desk, she rolls her eyes and picks up a few dirty plates and empty soda cans.  Placing them with a muffled clink into the plastic bin, she checks the time on her watch.

“Wake up, sleepyhead!”  She loudly shouts.  He doesn’t even flinch.  “Rise and shine!”  Yanking on the cord for the mini-blinds, light fills the room, highlighting the collection of dust on the shelves.

“Go away,” comes the mumbled sound from under the pillow.

“Can’t, dude,” she says, resting on the end of the bed, patting the dog and scratching his favorite spot on his hindquarters.  “Graduation practice today.  Can’t be late.  I thought you and the guys from the team were meeting for breakfast out on Highway 17?”

Head still hidden under the pillow, he hits his hand around on the mattress top, searching for his phone.  Peeking from under the pillow, his long lashes rest against his cheeks.  One bright blue eye pops open and he looks just like his father did at that age.  After looking at the screen, he drops the phone and thumps his head back down on the bed.  “Shit, I set it wrong.  I’m gonna be late.”

“So why aren’t you moving?”  She asks, scratching the dog under his chin, kicking her feet against the side of the bed.

“We might play ball after breakfast before we have to be at school.  I can shower in the locker room. Five more minutes,” he promises, pulling the blanket over his head to block out the sunlight.

The dog wiggles around, pushing his body against her hand.  Her eyes skate over the trophies, ribbons, books and game cases on the shelves her husband helped him build.  Some of the graphic novels of his youth are mixed in with the classics from his honors English classes.  

His foot hits her thigh.  “Mom, what are you doin’?”

“Nothin’, just sitting here with you; why?

He chuckles.  “I’m in my underwear.  I’m not getting out of bed till you leave.”  Looking at her, he answers her silent stare.  “It’s just weird.”

“Who do you think bought you that underwear?”  She laughs softly, holding back the lump in her throat.  There won’t be many more mornings like this- quiet, just the two of them.  Graduation is Saturday and the whole family is coming to town to see him.  The entire day is all about him, but she’s made one request of her handsome son- when it comes time for photos, there will be no complaints.  She hasn’t said anything to him, in case she can’t follow through, but she’s secretly promised herself for one day she can bury the hatchet and sit with her ex-husband and his new wife.  With their son leaving for Boot Camp in less than ten days, she feels this is a sacrifice she can make.  She wants him to remember that even with anger and distrust, in any situation you can still choose to work things out and get along, even if it’s a stilted truce for a greater good.

Her son and his happiness is her greater good.

Sitting up, he pulls a tshirt from a dirty pile of clothes beside the bed, scooting down and pulling the comforter tighter over his lap.  His strong arms snake around her, holding her close, resting his chin on her shoulder, his patchy scruff against her cheek.

“It’s gonna be okay, Mom.  It’s only ten weeks.”  His words are choked and she tenderly pats his arm.  “I know I don’t know what happens after that, but we can survive anything for seventy days, and you and Dad can come see me for that graduation ceremony too.”  His sighs deeply, his breath tickling her neck.  “You okay?  I can leave you here with Brutus?”

The dog whimpers softly at hearing his name.  With her eyes closed, she holds in her tears, simply nodding her head.  

Tugging the blanket off the bed, he wraps it around his waist, walking to the door.  “Hey, Mom?” he asks, paused at the entry.  “We get done around two, after the reading of the senior wills. Wanna meet for lunch?  Just you and me?”

As he stands truly at the threshold between being a boy and a man, she knows she raised him right, and the world is a better place for having him in it.  Not even bothering to hide her tears, she sniffles and giggles. “Yes.  Yes, I’d like that very much.”

Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Best Knight

Best Knight.jpg

Best Knight

an original fiction

by avenger-nerd-mom

This drabble was inspired by this photo I found on Pinterest.  In the short story, Brandon spends a rainy Saturday with his daughter, Bailey, while they wait for Mom to return from yoga class.

Warning: Fluff, divorced/blended families, parenting

Word Count: 1361

“It’s raining again,” she complains, resting her head on her chin and slowly lifting her spoon to her pouty little mouth.  The milk dribbles over the side and dots the formica counter.

“I know; another rainy Saturday,” her father replies, pushing away from the counter to get the bread from the toaster.  “What should we do today?”  He asks, wiping the toast crumbs on his gym shorts.  Scratching his chest through his t-shirt his mood quickly drops to match hers.  Sighing deeply, he tries to turn it around for the both of them.  “Let’s do something fun; whatdya say?”

Languidly, she drops her spoon into her bowl.  “It’s no fun when Steven goes to his other family.  I can’t do what I want if he’s not here.”

Being the baby of a hers/mine and ours family must be difficult he thinks to himself.  He misses his girls all the time, only seeing them on vacations and in summer.  He can’t blame their mother for taking the promotion when it was offered, even though it killed him to know the girls were eight hours away.  Steven goes to stay with his biological father every other weekend, and poor little Bailey always stays home.  Always stuck with Mom and Dad.

Resting his elbows on the counter, he lowers to her eye level and steals a colorful loop from her cereal bowl, munching on it.  “What did you have planned with Steven?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she huffs pushing her bowl to her father.  “Can I be done?”  He nods and she eyes his toast.  “You gonna put jelly on that, Daddy?”

He chuckles, “Would you like me to put jelly on it?”  Her smile brightens and she nods.  Crossing to the fridge he shows her the strawberry and grape, and she points to the strawberry.  She watches with awe as he smears the toast with the thick sticky mess and he hands it to her.  “You’re a sneak.” She giggles when he taps the end of her nose.  Opening the bag, he makes more toast, prodding her again.  “I’m just as fun as Steven.  I’ll play whatever you want.”

Her little legs swing back and forth and tap the base of the island.  “That’s not it,” she says sadly.  “He won’t let me use ‘em when he’s not here.  He says I’ll break ‘em.”

Ah.  Not a game but a thing.  Preparing his toast, he cuts it into squares just like his mother did when he was Bailey’s age.  Maybe they should call her and see if she wants to join them for dinner tonight?

Tossing the knife in the sink he says, “If I play with you, Steven can’t get mad, and if whatever it is breaks, we can find a way to fix it.  Is it something he hides?”  The little eight year old is always worried his “baby sister” will take his things.  She nods.  “Do you know where?”  He chuckles at her wide smile and bright eyes as she nods vigorously, her tangled hair bouncing around her head.  “Bailey, I give you permission to go in his room and get whatever it is from the hiding spot and carefully bring it to me. But only ‘cause I said so.”

Hopping down from her chair she quickly bounds across the room and he hears her rushing up the stairs.  Cleaning the morning mess and making sure there’s coffee ready when his wife gets back from her morning yoga class he curiously waits for the return of his littlest girl.

#

The living room looks like a disaster.  Pillows and blankets are everywhere.  A photo frame on the wall hangs precariously in its spot like it could fall at any moment.  Celtic melodies play from the speakers and a dragon perches on top of the couch.

“Hurry to help the villagers,” she shouts, running from the dining room, sword high in her hand.  He follows behind her swishing the foam.  He wonders if it’s considered ‘swashbuckling’ if he’s a knight and not a pirate.  In her commanding voice, she yells,  “Kill the beast Sir Knight!”

“Where is it?” He asks, “I’m blinded by the smoke; I can’t see anything.”  He shakes his head at her active imagination and holds in his laughter.  He’s tried to kill the damn beast five times and each time she says ‘not there!’  Fortunately the ‘forest’ was up in smoke because the dragons breathed fire to call the monster out of hiding.  The monster has been running free for over twenty minutes now and he’s exhausted. Not to mention his knees are killing him from crawling through the blanket fort.

Climbing to the top of the table, she spins and twirls and he stands close enough to catch her if she falls.  Her crown tumbles to the ground and she waves her sword wildly, jabbing downwards repeatedly.  “I KILLED THE BEAST!” she yells at the top of her lungs and he covers his ears as it echoes through the open room.  “THE BEAST IS DEAD!”

“Oh, sweet Princess Bailey,” he bows to her.  “You saved all the people and didn’t even need my help.  You’re truly amazing!”

She rests the sword on his shoulder and bestows him the honor of Best Knight Helper.

“A good royal always needs help,” she proclaims.  “Raise your sword to mine as we rejoice the end of the Beast and the beginning of our eternal spring!”

They cross the foam swords in revelry.  Where does she get these ideas; this vocabulary?  She brushes her hair from her face, her skin flushed and her eyes dancing and she’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.  How the hell did he get so lucky to create such an amazing creature?  His eyes mist slightly and she narrows hers at him.

“Sir Knight, are you crying for the Beast?” Her tone is incredulous.  “He was mean to the villagers and ate them.  Why would you cry for him?”

Laughing, he wipes his nose, pinching it and pulling away. “Sweet Princess, I’m not crying for the beast, I’m crying because I am amazed at the lengths you go to in order to care for the townspeople. How do you know such things, oh wise one?”

Resting the tip of her sword by her feet she leans on the hilt.  “Everyone knows the Princess learns everything from the Queen.”

Throwing his head back in laughter, he nods and agrees.  “Yes, my sweet, you are just like your Mother, the Queen, a fair and just ruler.”

The front door opens and the dog runs into the room, totally ignoring them and running straight to his bowl.  Bailey freezes in her spot and waits to see what mood Mother might be in after class.  Some days it’s unknown.  They both grimace as she grumbles about the mess she can see from the entry.

“Brandon?” she shouts.  “Is she on the table again?!”

Reaching his arms out, Bailey jumps into them and he sets her down to the floor gently.  “No, of course not, dear.  That would be ridiculous and unhygienic.”

Handing her his sword, he pats her bum and Bailey runs off to the back set of stairs to return them to their hiding place.

Still pink-cheeked from her workout his beautiful wife rounds the corner with her hands on her hips.  Giggling she replies, “You are the worst liar, you know that, right?”

Pushing the chair back to the table, he steps to her, digging his fingers in the base of her ponytail, inhaling her sweet scent of sweat and baby powder.  “I’m shocked and offended.  I’m the Best Knight Helper.  I don’t tell lies, my Queen.”  He nuzzles along her neck and kisses tenderly in the crook above her collarbone.

“Will she need a nap soon?” she whispers.

Biting back a groan, he breathes warmly against her neck, “God, I hope so.”

“Brandon,” she sighs as he nibbles along her outstretched space and his hands start to roam down her arms and across her back.

“Mmm?” he asks lost in sensual thoughts of his desirous wife.

“There are little bitty footprints on the table top.”

Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

WIP: Coffee Shop PT 2

WIP coffee shop cover.jpg

WIP: Coffee Shop PT 2

by avenger-nerd-mom

Veronica Connors has her hands full taking care of her sick mother…

Warnings: Language, sick parent, caretaker role

Word Count: 2330

I’ve been working on some original fiction pieces aside from my fan fictions.  I will not be posting whole stories here or on tumblr, but I plan to share bits and pieces as I make progress.  No famous personalities and quirks to fall back on, no face claims… these hurting souls are all mine.

Click here for PT 1

As the summer continues a pattern develops. Mother and I develop a schedule. Breakfast and medicine. A walk around the yard before the summer Sun heats up. She enjoys telling me about her garden. On really good days we get down in the dirt and she feels productive, regaling me with stories I’ve never heard about her childhood. Lunch and medicine. Her afternoon nap. Her soaps on TV. She complains daily that her favorites are no longer on the air, having been replaced by ‘those damn game shows and ranting women.’

I try to finish my work for the office by two each day. The advice for new mothers to nap when the baby naps? I would say it holds true for anyone taking care of an aging parent. Even on a day when she is active and lucid I’m worn out.  When she settles into her chair for the afternoon I often curl up on the couch and try to catch an hour nap. I have to; I never know what the night time will bring. I’m learning it often means night terrors, fits of rage and on one occasion trying to escape the house at two in the morning.

The woman I see isn’t my mother anymore. My mother, although controlling, was graceful and arrogant. Yet she had a way about her that made everyone like her. I didn’t realize till college that was all for show. She was tolerated simply because she was head of so many committees in town.  I knew I didn’t like her but was surprised my freshman year in college when I worked at the country club over the summer that many of her friends didn’t like her either. I overheard them one day as I was helping prep for one of her charity events.  Although the things they said about Eleanor Connor were true, it was difficult to hear others hate your own flesh and blood.  That was my job.

Daytime I can handle.  I work, do laundry and take care of Mom. It’s a little mind numbing actually.  I don’t worry about the house. Her cleaning lady still comes in once a week and as long as I vacuum and keep the kitchen clean we don’t make too many messes. If mother’s state continues it will be time to consider moving her to a residential facility. Aunt Sharon and I have talked about this.  She’d like it to happen sooner than later; I think she’d like to take back the property.  Daddy deeded it to her in the event that mother no longer was using the home.

I sure as hell don’t want it. She can have it. Even as a young girl I knew the home was a status symbol; Daddy bought it so Mother could keep up her appearances and have a display home for teas and charity meetings with the other bored, wealthy housewives in town. I always felt like Cinderella with the number of chores she made me complete each week. Always giving me a list of things before I could go out-

“Roni? Be a dear,” She interrupts my thoughts and I know what’s coming. Like clockwork. “It’s chilly in here and there is a glare on the tv. Please hand me my sweater.”

I rise to hand it to her, moving the tv monitor a fraction of an inch before sitting on the couch next to her. Back to the original location it sat in yesterday when she complained.  I swear it’s a game with her.  There is no glare. She just wants to see me jump. She scowls as she takes the blue fuzzy garment, sniffing, “Where’s my pink one? I like it. It’s softer.”

“I know Mama. I had to wash it today, remember? You spilled soup on it last night.”  That’s being polite. She poured it in her lap like a child when it was cheese broccoli instead of tomato. When I began cooking around four she wanted cheese broccoli. By five when it was ready to eat, she requested tomato. When she didn’t get her way she dumped it in her lap. “You wanted me to dry it on the line because you said it would smell like your garden?”

“I did? Oh, heaven’s no child. Go get it!  I can’t have all the pollen in the sweater fibers! I won’t be able to breath for a week!”

Sighing, I look at my watch. “Do I have to go right this minute, Mama?  Can it wait till Aunt Sharon gets here so I don’t leave you alone?”

She pulls her arms through the sweater like a petulant child, pouting. “I’m not helpless. I can be left alone for five minutes.”

“Mama. The last time you said that to me I found you standing in the middle of the street and you didn’t know how you got there,” I remind her.

She stares at me blankly. “That’s a lie. You just want me to be sick. You give me too much medicine so I get foggy and I can’t think straight.”

She blames the doctor too.  Actually, he does tend to keep her in a fog.  He says her body can heal faster if she rests and he knows it makes caring for her easier on me and Aunt Sharon.

I can’t read her state and I say the first thing to come to my mind. “Mama, if I was gonna over medicate anyone right now it would be me so I could block out all this shit.”

It’s like my tone triggers something in her brain and she reaches over to pat my knee. “Hey little Roni Boney; what’s got you down dearie?”

I ignore the hated nickname and her unintended slam for all my years as a skinny, scrawny thing. This woman sounds like my Mom. I reach out to grasp her fingertips locking her frail hand in mine. When did she get old? Was she old before she got sick?  “Nothing, Ma. I’m just kinda tired.”

“Is it Thomas? He’s a nice man; I like him. Why hasn’t he come to visit you this summer?”

Of course she would like him, but I bite my tongue.  “Mama, he and I broke up last spring. We just didnt-”

She interrupts me again, snapping to attention. “Veronica Rae Connors. You are too old to still be single. That nonsense of yours about getting a job and moving to the city needs to stop. You can’t be all high and mighty and expect a man to love you.  A good man still wants his wife waiting at home with a hot dinner at night, getting the kids ready for their bath so they can have time alone and make more babies.”

“Good God, Mama!  What year do you think this is?!”  I take a deep breath to keep myself from actually yelling at her.  I rub my temples and pray dad’s sister gets here soon. “Barefoot and pregnant with pearls around my neck? I don’t live in some kind of black and white rerun on TV. In this day and age women have jobs; some of us even make more money than our male counterparts. If you’re waiting around for me to have kids or settle down, you’ll be waiting a helluva long time. I’m just not in that frame of mind or that place right now, Mama. I gotta finish making myself before I can make a wife or a mom.”

Looking at me in disbelief as if I’ve sprouted two heads, she retorts quickly,  “What kind of feminist new age bullshit is that?”

Oh, my God.  I actually want to argue with her just because she seems human now, not this collapsed shell of who she used to be.  I gleefully begin to get a little fired up about this. “Why do you spit out feminism like it’s a bad thing?”  I reply.  “You could have worked, you went to college; studied journalism.  You gave it away for Daddy.  That’s what you wanted.  Why can’t I have what I want?!”

“You think I had what I wanted?” she mocks.  “Your father was-”

“Enough Eleanor!” Aunt Sharon calls out haltingly at the arched entrance to the living room.  “You will not besmirch my brother’s name over your petty indifferences.  If you say one more word, you’ll be out now.”

Mother instantly stops, looking to me like a child with her hand slapped for being in the cookie jar.  My mouth ajar I have no idea what just transpired.  Aunt Sharon just shakes her head at me as she drops her bag in the chair she leaves stationed just inside the doorway.  She pulls off her light jacket and pushes a few loose tendrils behind her ear.  “Eleanor, you know that man gave you everything.  You had what you wanted.”

Her last phrase, repeated from my own words, shows she’d been in the house listening, at least for a few moments before making her presence known.

In a blink, Mom shuts back down.  Her eyes glaze over and it’s like we weren’t even in the middle of an interesting discussion.  Bile burns my throat as I want to rip into my aunt but I know if I do, my evening alone is shot.   I hand Mom the remote and she stares at it for a minute before turning her eyes back to the television.  Steeling myself, I take a big breath and rise to my feet.  “Aunt Sharon, can I see you in the hallway?”

I can see on her face she knows I’m pissed, but she simply nods her head yes and steps backwards into the open space.  She opens her mouth before I can even start.  “Veronica.  You can not do that.  She is not in a good head space and you know that.  Even when she seems like your mother, you can’t.  You can’t engage her and you can’t trust things she tells you.”

I slink back against the wall, deflated because I know she’s right. “You’re right.  Dammit, you’re right.  Just…” I huff.  “When she starts in about Thomas, or Daddy…”  I shake my head.  “I can deal with one or the other but not both.  She acts like I’ve failed at life, and she has no idea about my life.  She-”

“She tried and you cut her out.”

“Sharon, that’s bullshit and you know it.  She made her bed.  I know all the horrible things after Daddy died.  But I wasn’t around before that.  And I’m never gonna resolve all that if I don’t know.”

“But you can’t trust her.  Her brain isn’t right.”

“Then I need you to fuckin’ tell me what you know.”  She purses her lip when I curse.  She has her list of acceptable words and ‘fuck’ isn’t one of them.  “Sorry. I know… really.  I just need information and it’s like it’s all locked in her brain. I just need a time when she is cognizant, to tell me what she remembers.”

“Honey, even then… Your mother,” she pauses, sighing.  “Your mother wasn’t always a nice, truthful person.  I only know what I saw.  Snippets of gossip I’d hear around town.” She sighs even deeper.  “But if you really think it will help you, I’ll think back on those days and we can talk it out soon.”  She lapses for a moment as I shake my head in agreement.  “And I’m sorry for intruding.  But I don’t want to listen to your mother ruin my brother’s memory; I get enough of that each night when you are out… What are you doing to keep busy by the way? Still writing at the coffee shop?”

“You’re changing the subject…” I scoff, scowling at her a bit.  I know she’s right.  I take a deep breath and let her tactic work.  “Tonight is discount night at the movies.  I’m gonna go see that new show everyone’s talking about; then yeah, I’ll probably head to the coffee shop for a bit.”

Peering into the living room, I see mother rise from the couch and shuffle to the blinds, adjusting them to block out more light.  Rubbing the back of my neck, I shake my head.  “Sharon, I can’t keep doing this.  She’s got to get better.  I eventually have to get back to my life.”

“Oh, sweetie,” my aunt steps forward and wraps her arms around me, pulling me into her full bosom.  “I know.  I know.  Next week, after we meet with the doctors.  We’ll see what the next step should be.”  Pulling my head up to look her in the eye, she reminds me, “What you’ve done is so amazing.  You’ve been the best daughter, the best niece anyone could hope for honey.”  Wrapping a stray curl around one of her fingers, she tucks it back up in my messy bun.  “Stop sitting at that damn coffee shop.  You’re not gonna meet people there.”

I chuckle and kiss her on the cheek.  I love that she can make me feel sixteen again with a simple hug.  I squeeze her tight before letting go.  “There’s a reason I moved away from this place.  I didn’t want to come back.  I’m not about meeting people right now.  I’m about getting Mom better or getting her someplace where people can care for her.”

Sharon pushes me towards the door.  “That doesn’t mean you have to live like a nun.”  She hands me my purse from the side table.  “Live a little.  Karaoke night at Charlie’s tonight.  That’s where everyone goes on Thursdays.  Forget the movies.  Really?  If you called me up and said you were at Charlie’s I’d so stay a few extra hours.”

Opening the door, I shake my head at her.  “What if I make it sound like I’m at Charlie’s?” I ask, reaching for my computer bag next to the walker mom needs to start using.

“GO, child.  Live a little,” she laughs.

Copyright © 2016 avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

WIP: Coffee Shop

WIP: Intro to Coffee Shop

By avenger-nerd-mom

Original Fictional Characters

Veronica’s summer isn’t shaping up to be what she had in mind…

Word count: 2294

Warnings: Language, None

This is an Original Fiction piece.  This story does not feature the man many of you are used to seeing me write.  I will not be sharing the whole story online, but I will share bits and pieces as I continue work on my first true novel.  It’s about 9000 words so far and I’m really excited to see the story developing on its own!

Scrolling absently through the internet I listen to my friend’s incessant chatter over the phone.  The car lights out the big bay window catch my eye and I begin to think about our friendship, not really listening to what she has to say.  I feel like I’ve been gone so long that it seems like our connection is already starting to wither.  She’s dealing with a new baby and I’m dealing with a sick parent.  I wonder if we truly had anything in common to begin with other than our job at the office.  This thought fills me with a cold sadness, so I reach for my coffee to add some warmth to my insides.

Just as I am about to cut the call short the woman on the other end of the line switches gears and asks, “So, how are things?  I know you don’t get a lot of time away from your mom, but are you getting out and doing things?  I mean, it is your hometown.  You grew up there. You know people, right?”

A car honk outside garners my attention and I watch as a man throws his hands up at the car and continues his way across the street shaking his head in disgust.  He enters the coffee shop, mumbling to himself in Spanish and he doesn’t seem very happy.  The girls working behind the counter yell out to him in the same fluent tongue and he looks around the shop, his eyes landing on me and he smiles sheepishly.  His smile does things to me and now I’m filled with a different heat, and not from the coffee.

“Oh my mom?” I ask, my thoughts truly elsewhere now as I watch him move gracefully around the shop.  He walks behind the counter and kisses one of the girls on the cheek and I look away.  My eyes land on the latest gossip story making headlines and I close the computer screen.  I shake my head, even though my friend can’t see my frustration.  “Taking care of her is pretty full time…  My aunt comes by every night and sits with her for a few hours just so I can get out.”

The quiet voice on the end of the line says, “Well that’s something, at least.  How do you keep busy?”

I can picture her in the baby’s nursery I helped paint.  Sighing, I look at my watch.  This time of night, I imagine her rocking in the chair, nursing the baby and inhaling the inherent sweet smell of babies.  Taking off my reading glasses, I pinch the bridge of my nose as the image in my mind switches to me with a baby.  Those are not thoughts I can entertain right now and I work to shove them out of my mind.

Even if her interest is feigned, I decide to take it.  “You know I always said I wanted to write?  Well, I’m taking time to do that.  Yea, it’s my home town and all, but anyone I would have had connections with moved on to the city and those that stayed behind already have about three kids at our age and no offense, but that makes adult conversations tough when they are thinking about play dates and I’m worrying about trying to get appointments with the doctors.”

“Hey, I understand. That doesn’t hurt my feelings.  I have babies on the brain and you don’t.  And you may not believe me, but sometimes I’m jealous of you.  I mean, not the sick mom part, but you got to walk away.  Life wasn’t what you wanted.  You needed a change and you got a chance to make it happen.  Use it, girl.  Build a new life. Make some new memories.  Find a hot guy.  Any hot guys?” she giggles.

He comes back into my line of vision, beginning to put up the chairs for the night as a few of the other customers prepare to make their exit.  “I don’t know,” I reply.  “I haven’t really been looking.  I’m at home with mom, the doctor’s office or the grocery store.”

A large crash from the back of the kitchen makes me jump and she can hear it through the phone.  “Goodness!  What was that?  Where are you know?”

He runs back into the kitchen to check on the commotion and the other girl at the counter continues wiping up, shrugging at me, not too concerned with the noise.  She turns to wash her hands at the sink and I look out the window as the sky finally turns dark.  Almost time to go home.  My heart sinks.  “I’m at a local coffee shop.” I huff in disbelief. “It’s actually really good; they make great sweets and sandwiches and there’s free WiFi.”

“Mmhm… Weren’t you the girl that made fun of people who looked camped out at the coffee shop?” she chides and I can hear quiet baby cooing through the phone.

“Well, it’s the only spot in town; unless I decide to become a lush.  If I want to develop a drinking problem, there are more than enough places like that around here.”  Not that I’d have to go anywhere, thinking of the stocked and locked liquor cabinet in Dad’s study.

“Good God, Veronica, what kind of hillbilly village are you in?” she laughs.

I smile again as a group of teenagers walk down the sidewalk, obviously heading back from the creek, some of them still dripping wet from an evening swim.  “The kind I’m going to write about,” I answer truthfully.  “God, honey.  This place is unreal.  It’s a little backwoods.  Everyone knows everybody.  You can’t really keep a secret.  There’s a different hierarchy of things.  A definite ‘have and have not’ kind of place.”

I can hear her shift the baby in her arms.  “Which were you growing up?”

“Oh, I had the fortunate privilege of being a ‘Have.’  Not that it got me too far in life. Sure, an ivy league education Daddy paid for, but look at me know.  Playing nurse maid to the woman who controlled my every movement growing up.”

“You still hate her?”

Sighing, I don’t know that there is an easy answer to that question.  Maybe I’m better friends with this woman than I thought just a few moments ago.  “Damn. If you ever decide to give up accounting you should think about becoming a therapist, because you seem- hold on.”

I pause the conversation as he crosses the room towards me with a fresh cup of coffee in his hand.  He always brings me a cup to go on nights he works; I never asked, he just does.

I like watching the way he moves, so confident and sure.  We talk sometimes, but I don’t know his name.  He’s so quiet I don’t even know if he speaks English very well.  Working in a coffee shop can’t be his only job. He’s too fit.  He sets the cup down on my table and moves to wipe down the others by the windows.  As he leans across the table the muscles stretch across his back and his shirt rises, exposing his dark skin and a tattoo peeking out from the waistband of his jeans. I bite back the sound I want to make and I can see a small smirk on his face. Fuck him. He’s doing that on purpose!

“Ya know, babes, I can’t finish this conversation now.” I unplug my computer and start to pack up my things.  “The shop is getting ready to close down and they’re cleaning around me, like I’m in the way,” I chuckle for her benefit.  Inside I’m on fire.  Angry that he would act that way; too cocky, too sure of his good looks.  I roll my eyes.  “Besides, if I’m gonna have any kind of peaceful sleep tonight, I can’t be thinking about my complicated relationship with my mother.”

“Alright, I get it.  But when you’re ready to talk, I’m here,” she says.  “I gotta put Henry down anyway.  We’ll talk again soon okay?  We’re more than moms and daughters.  We do have things in common besides work you know…” she says before we say our goodbyes.

How did she develop that mom skill already?  The baby is less than two months old and already she can read people’s minds?  Spooky.

Reaching in my bag, I fumble for my keys. Dammit. Where are they? Scanning the table they aren’t next to my sunglasses or under my rumpled napkin.  I frantically begin to search my laptop bag, pulling out discarded notes and printed copies of pages from my story.

Mira.”  Look.  I remember that from college Spanish.  “I think they’re at your feet,” he says, his accent thick and rich, reminding me of the coffee he fixed just for me.  Sweeping his feet under the table he kicks the keys out into the aisle.  He crouches to retrieve them and I can feel his eyes skimming up my muscled calves and thighs, stopping at the hem of my shorts before bringing his eyes to my face as he hands them to me. “Nice key chain,” he says, noticing my choice of sports teams. “They’ve had a good season.”

“Yea,” I mumble, smiling appreciatively as I repack the bag.  “I keep hoping I can get an afternoon off to go catch a game in person, but no such luck.”

He catches the empty water bottle that rolls across the table and says, “That sucks.  Maybe your suerte will change.”

When I rise to stand he moves back slowly, giving me space.  I catch a whiff of his cologne and his manly scent.  He smells like a warm summer afternoon, fresh cut grass and sweat- the good kind. Like someone who is outdoors a lot.  I feel a little rocked on my feet at the affect just his personal odor has on me.  Regaining my composure, I pull the purse strap over my head and let it hit my hip before reaching for my computer bag and hoisting it on my shoulder.  I reply, “God, I only hope so!  I could use some luck!”

The handsome man chuckles and quickly moves to clean my trash before I can, handing me the fresh cup of coffee.  He follows me to the door, ready to lock up when I leave and as I step into the summer night, I swear I hear him wish me sweet dreams.

The sound echoes in my head as I walk to my car.  The air is hot and sticky and I move slowly.  A kid riding his bike down the sidewalk shouts at me and I move out of his way.  I cross the street, wary of any kids out for a late drive.  Unlocking the doors I throw my bags into the passenger seat.  Feeling eyes watching me, I climb into the car before I turn to look.  Reaching to turn on the AC I see the good looking man from the coffee shop observing me.

My mind mulls this over as I move the car onto the road.  For the last three weeks my life has been at a standstill.  My mother is a diabetic who doesn’t take care of herself.  I still remember getting the call at work from my aunt that she had passed out and was being rushed to the hospital with stroke-like conditions. I decide not to dwell on any of those details right now, if I wish to have any decent sleep tonight.

With no one else to care for her, I’ve moved back home.  Fortunately my job in billing and finances for an insurance firm allows me to work on the computer anywhere.  I’m able to work during the day while mom rests or we watch her soap operas together.  And she nags at me about how I should get my life together at my age.  I’m thirty-two years old and living with my mother again. My life is too complicated for the affections of a man right now.

Pulling into the driveway of our two story house, I let the cool air from the vents sooth me.  I know the house will feel hotter than an oven.  I look over the front of the house and smile.  When I was a little girl, it always reminded me of a face.  The two windows up high as the eyes and the large porch as a big sweeping grin.  Lights flicker in the front room but the rest of the house is dark.  I can see the stray cat on the railing, wondering if she’ll get fed tonight.  She should know by now Aunt Sharon won’t feed her a thing.  If she doesn’t want to get scolded, she should learn to wait till later when I’m taking out the trash after Mama goes to bed.

The porch light flashes and I know Aunt Sharon is ready to leave.  I turn off the car and slowly gather my supplies, fortifying myself for whatever may welcome me on the other side.

The still air greets me as I cross the threshold.  I can see my aunt outlined in the shadow by the entry to the living room where Mama stays now.  She’s too frail to get up the stairs and I didn’t want to risk trying to move her around the house too much.  It was easier to let her set up camp downstairs.  “Hey, Aunt Sharon,”  I call out.  “How’s our pretty lady tonight?”

Before I can make three steps down the hallway a glass shatters against the wall in the other room and a raggedy voice yells, “Get that bitch out of my house!”

So that’s how tonight is going to be.

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